Standing in stark contrast against the perpetual gridlock of Hyde Park Corner stands a somewhat hidden gem. Despite seeing Aspley House frequently, the history and the interior had remained an anomaly for me, and it would appear that this is the case for many Londoners. It would also appear that my long-awaited entrance coincided with a new beginning for the immensely historic building.
The House, which was built in 1771, was home to the first Duke of Wellington and has since been passed through his descendants.
Upon entrance, you become immediately aware of the grandeur and ceremony. I was attending the ‘Battle of Salamanca Weekend’ on the 20th of July, where Wellington’s ‘troops’ would perform drills whilst regency dancing took place in the stunning rooms. Although a crucial victory that would ultimately lead to Napoleon’s complete removal from Spain, this battle has been largely forgotten by the masses. It is therefore clear that Aspley House is aiming to resurrect history and provoke intrigue in a wider audience.
Upon encountering a general and a number of soldiers from the ‘68th Durham Light Infantry Regiment’, I was taken aback by the sheer detail of their performance. Far more than actors, these men and women are historians in their own right. Down to the shade of red of their outfits, they provide details and intricacies which to help immerse the attendee further. The enthusiasm that everyone at Aspley House possesses incites a similar fervor within the self.
Each room emits regality and culture, the art collection is an attraction in itself. Upon seizing a wealth of looted paintings, the Duke ultimately saved works by Ruben and Titian which now hang triumphantly on the stately walls. Each wall is coated with centuries old portraits and compelling scenes which transfer epic stories onto canvas. Some of the works were commissioned after the Duke’s historic victory at the Battle of Waterloo, and it is captivating to observe the pride he felt. His passion is clearly evoked throughout the house, the operatic music that was written to celebrate the Duke’s victory permeate the space and recapture this sense of elation.
Aspley House belongs to English Heritage, making information about upcoming events and the buildings whereabouts easy to find.
London is bursting with vivid shops, brash colours and constructed ideals. I must say that it is gratifying and refreshing to revel in authentic history and indulge in the pleasures of a different time.
for more events at Apsley House please click here: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/apsley-house/
By Lewis Andrews